Webcam buying guide : Things to know before you buy a Webcam

Webcam buying guide : Things to know before you buy a Webcam

The Internet has vastly broadened people’s ability to communicate with one another, allowing for quick, convenient, and inexpensive interaction across oceans and continents. The Internet has not only facilitated communication, though. It has changed the way that people communicate with one another. One example of this change is the sending and receiving of live video footage between two people across chat programs. It is one thing to hear someone’s voice, but communication becomes greatly enhanced when there is a live image to go along with that voice. After all, it is said that 75 percent of communication is nonverbal. If taken at face value, that means that three-quarters of communication between two people distant from one another was missing before the advent of webcams.

Webcams have brought the exciting element of live images to communicating across the Internet. Whether it is someone living abroad chatting with family back at home or business associates on separate continents collaborating with one another in real time, webcams are great facilitators for communication. They help make it feel like both parties are in the same room, when in fact they are time zones away from one another. A good webcam can broadcast crystal clear images, giving lifelike detail to a video chat. This guide will detail various webcam features in order to help those who are interested in buying a webcam to make an informed decision about which device they choose.

Webcam Features

There are a handful of features to consider when buying a webcam. The more features and the higher quality those features are, the more a webcam will typically cost. How necessary or desirable those features are depends on how the buyer plans to use the webcam. The main features of a webcam are its resolution, its frame rate, its ability to autofocus, its lens, its microphone, its recording capabilities, its design, and its connection type.


Resolution is perhaps the feature that stands out the most in a webcam. There are two basic resolution categories: standard definition and high definition. Standard definition has a lower resolution than high definition does, with 480-pixel vertically scanning lines being the common standard definition resolution. High Definition wecams offer two levels of resolution for broadcasting: 720p and 1080p. The former has 720-pixel vertically scanning lines and the second has 1080-pixel vertically scanning lines. The more pixels that there are in the vertically scanning lines of a video, the sharper and clearer the image will be.

Buyers should be aware that a webcam’s resolution determines how sharp the video will be for the people to whom the user is broadcasting video, and they must have a high definition monitor in order to view high definition video. The webcam’s resolution has no bearing on the video quality that user sees on their own monitor.

Frame Rate

Frame rate is another very important feature. This is the rate at which the webcam is able to capture still images. When these still images are captured and broadcast in rapid succession, they appear as an animated video. A good frame rate for a webcam is 30 frames per second, as frame rates significantly less than that will make subjects’ movements appear jarred and slightly hesitant. The video should appear smooth and lifelike, so it is important to find a camera with enough of a frame rate to make it appear so.


A webcam with autofocus can track a moving subject within the frame and change its focus as the subject moves away from and closer to the camera. This is a nice feature to have as it always keeps the subject in focus. Users who move around during video chats will find it beneficial as the camera will always be able to broadcast them clearly to viewers on the other end.


While resolution is probably the more noticeable feature of a webcam, the lens construction is equally important. Image quality is largely connected to lens quality, so the better the lens is, the better the broadcast image will be. The lens captures the light on the subject that the webcam’s sensor then transforms into the image broadcast to viewers. A high-quality lens captures more light, therefore producing higher quality images. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 for example, employs a high-quality Carl Zeiss lens to produce clear, bright, and colorful images.


Some webcams have a built-in microphone and some do not. It is possible to get a microphone as a separate component, but having one built into a webcam is an added convenience. If a webcam does have a microphone, it is generally suitable for use on a chat program, but is not powerful enough for professional sound recording.


Most webcams can record videos and pictures. Some are able to record high definition video and are capable of taking higher-resolution photographs. This is a good feature to have for quick and convenient uploading of video recordings and snapshots.


Webcam buyers will also want to decide between clip-on or freestanding webcams. The former is affixed to the computer’s monitor, while the latter sits on a surface next to the computer. Clip-on webcams are often designed for thin monitors, such as the ones built into laptops. Many desktop users also employ thin monitors in their systems and clip-on webcams work also well with these.

A freestanding webcam may require extra space for use, but it can also be a bit easier to adjust since it is not affixed to anything. Desktop users who have a larger monitor may also find that clip-on webcams are incompatible with their systems, leaving a freestanding webcam as the only option.

Connection Type

Another webcam feature to consider is how the webcam connects to the computer. Most webcams hook into a computer via a USB 2.0 cable, but others do so through a wireless connection. Although USB 2.0 webcams add a wire to a computer system, they are still convenient to use and easy to connect. Wireless webcams are generally positioned further away from computers, making a wired connection impractical. A wireless webcam might be used in a home monitoring situation, for example, where the webcam is in a separate room from the computer to which it is connected.


The final consideration for those interested in buying a webcam is the webcam’s maker. This is a little less important than the other features listed above since there are numerous quality manufacturers of webcams, but it is helpful to be aware of a few manufacturers that are particularly well known for producing quality webcams. These include: Logtitech, Microsoft, HP, Creative, Gear Head, Sony, Apple, and Toshiba. There are other producers of webcams that make high quality devices, but the ones listed here stand out in the webcam market.

Where to Buy Webcams

Webcams are available from many different sources. Computer specialty shops generally stock webcams and these are good sources from which buy because the employees of such shops are generally quite knowledgeable about the products sold there.

Many large electronics retailers have online stores that sell webcams. Stocks from these sources are generally vast, offering consumers a large selection of webcams from which to choose. Customers should have a good idea of what they are looking for if they choose to shop for them online because consumer advice is usually limited in the online shopping experience.


Webcams are important devices for communication between people who are unable to see one another in person. While face-to-face interaction is often the first choice of communication, interacting via webcams is the next best thing. Depending upon its features, a webcam can provide clear and sharp video imaging, with higher quality webcams offering a more lifelike experience.

Whether communicating with someone for business or personal reasons, seeing that person’s face makes the interaction stronger. Many words are held in facial expressions and being able to see those words on a person’s face vastly expands and enhances communication. Webcams that offer high definition broadcasting help viewers see more details, and the more clear and vivid the video is, the more it feels like that person is actually in the room. There are many different webcams, but choosing one with the right features makes for smoother and more real communication between people who may be on opposite sides of the world from one another. There is no substitute for being able to hug someone or shake their hand, but a crystal clear video chat can be the next best thing.

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